Oral cancer guide designed to aid communication

An oral cancer communication guide has been developed and piloted at King’s College London’s Dental Institute

An oral cancer communication guide has been developed and piloted at King’s College London’s Dental Institute

An oral cancer communication guide has been developed and piloted at King’s College London’s Dental Institute to help dental professionals talk about the often tricky subject with patients.

Dentists have reported a reluctance to tell their patients they are looking for signs of oral cancer during examinations and often avoid using the word cancer altogether. In order to help dentists overcome this reluctance, an oral cancer communication guide was developed and piloted at King’s College London’s Dental Institute.

The guide aims to show dental practitioners how to raise the issue of oral cancer during a routine appointment without raising anxiety or prolonging the consultation.

To determine whether training in the use of this oral cancer guide could help dentists feel confident enough to have oral cancer-related discussions with their patients, a pre- and post-intervention study was held at King’s College London.

The results, published in the British Dental Journal, show that the training session had a positive impact by reducing perceived barriers to oral cancer-related discussions, increasing self-efficacy and increasing oral cancer discussions between dentists and patients.

Forty-one dentists took part in the training. The session presented participants with a brief update on oral cancer, an introduction to the oral cancer communication guide, and learning activities and chances to practise using the guide through role-play and feedback.

Highlighting the success of the training, in a post-training questionnaire, a significantly higher proportion of dentists reported they informed patients that they were being screened for oral cancer than pre-training.

‘The guide includes key messages in an easy-to-follow format. It is not intended to be used as a script, but rather to be used as a guide for interactive discussions about symptoms, the importance of early detection, and when and where to seek help should symptoms occur,’ explains Professor Tim Newton, co-author of the study.

‘Highlighting the need for training in this area, this study has shown that the training sessions had a positive impact on the dentists’ self-reported behaviour and indicates a positive response to the guide as well’.

The study, ‘Pilot study to train dentists to communicate about oral cancer: the impact of dentists’ self-reported behaviour, confidence and beliefs’ by O Awojobi, JT Newton and SE Scott, was published in the British Dental Journal and can be accessed here.

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